Though this is my blog and I’ll be the only one writing it, I titled this page “About Us” because it’s about me, my husband, our children, and other loved ones who will surely come into these stories along the way.
We live in Austin, Texas — my husband, E.S.S. (or just E), our daughter, P., and I. Our son August’s initials are A.J.M.S., but I’m sure I’ll just call him August as I write all of this out. We intended to call him Gus, but somehow, the fact that he died prevented shortening his name to a fond nickname. We have always called him August, ever since he was born. The fact that it means “respected, venerable, revered” seems to me to fit him well.
August, our firstborn child, was born and died on January 12, 2010 — the same day that the catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti. We did not know August was going to die. I was 41 and a half weeks pregnant when I finally went into labor. I was so excited to meet this child I’d carried for so long — and a little bit scared, too; it was my first pregnancy, first kid, and I didn’t quite know what to expect.
Despite any fears I may have had throughout the pregnancy and as the birth approached, I never really thought anything bad would happen. I never really thought it was a possibility that our child could die at birth. But that’s what happened. He had a very rare birth defect we hadn’t known about, called an encephalocele — an opening in his skull at the very top of his head, exposing his brain, which was was covered only by the meninges. Had the opening been covered by skin, there might have been a chance he could have lived, albeit likely with some developmental delays and cognitive impairment. But no skin covered this small, crucial imperfection.
I couldn’t believe my body, his body, had failed to complete that one, last, essential detail. Everything else about him looked so perfect and beautiful to me — nine pounds of chunky thighs, broad chest, sweet little fingers with tiny nails, the nail beds just starting to purple. He died sometime during delivery, as I pushed him out, but he did not look dead as we held him. He just looked as if he were sleeping. He was so large and heavy; I don’t think I will ever forget what it felt like to hold that weight of him.
I opened his eyelids with my fingers, and his irises were an impossibly bright, clear blue, staring outward, not at me; never at me. I hope I never forget that color, that brightness, which were so arresting in that moment.
This is our story — what happened to August, and what happened to us as a result. I hope writing it helps someone else who is going through this awful, indescribable experience of losing a beloved child at birth. Now birth and death are forever, inextricably intertwined. I can’t describe this — how it feels, what it means, why it happens. And so I will try.